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Woman who lost best friend to cancer begins nonprofit for single parents undergoing treatment

Losing her friend, a single mother of four, changed Andy's life forever. That event would go on to change the lives of many more, too, through her nonprofit.

PORTLAND, Ore. — In 2005, Andy McCandless lost her best friend Michelle Singleton to cancer. 

That moment would forever change her life and the lives of other single parents battling cancer.

“Losing Michelle was a game-changer for me,” Andy McCandless explained. “It's changed the whole course of my life and I never even knew what a 501c3 was, I never even knew what a nonprofit was, I had never volunteered in my life you know, all of that changed from her death.” 

McCandless’ life changed in a big way. She founded a nonprofit in memory of her friend called Michelle’s Love.

Michelle was a 32-year-old single mother of four.

Credit: Andy McCandless

“So when she died, it just brought me a whole new world of, people get sick and they die and they leave their kids,” McCandless explained.

That is why Michelle's Love is dedicated to helping single parents undergoing cancer treatment.

Volunteers met at Dream Dinners in Beaverton on Saturday to make meals for parents currently battling cancer. Parents like Jennifer Severance, who is a single mom to a 14-year-old daughter and 17-year-old twin boys. She was diagnosed with breast cancer last October.

“With one word, your life is blown up, and you're like, how am I going to pay my bills, how am I going to take care of my kids, how am I going to keep working,” Jennifer Severance asked.

Those are questions Michelle's Love helped her answer as she went through four months of chemotherapy and four surgeries. The group brought her meals, cleaned her house, covered bills, and even helped her son get his car fixed.

“You have two choices, right, you become a full-time patient or you keep life as normal as you can and that was my choice, like, I'm going to keep going and Michelle’s Love had helped me do that,” Severance said.

The nonprofit has helped more than a hundred single parents by paying bills, making meals, and cleaning their homes.

“That’s one thing that I want Michelle’s Love to be about,” McCandless explained. “I want to be about not asking. I want to be about just doing and I think that's what everybody can learn from having a friend who's sick. Don't call them and say what can I do? Because they're going to say nothing, right? You know, so you have to be, I'm going to come over and I'm going to clean your kitchen, or I'm going to come over and pick up a couple loads of laundry, or why don't you give me your account number to your electracy bill and I'm just going to pay it.”

Severance is still going through treatment herself but has her eyes set on being cancer-free by December.

“When you're in the thick of it, it's very hard and so I'm always the kind of person that's looking forward and wants to move on and so I have the end in sight and I know once I'm done with this, I'm closing the chapter on this, checking it off my list and I'm going to move on,” Severance said.

Michelle’s Love is made possible through donations. If you want to donate click here.

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